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Archive for 2010

World Theatre Day in Chicago – 2010

February 25, 2010 By: Nick Keenan Category: Chicago Theater, Community Building

At long last, details are firming up on this year’s March 27 @ 9:30 World Theatre Day celebration at the Chopin.

First, let’s review some of the awesome from last year.

And now here’s the FACEBOOK INVITE.

World Theatre Day is an international celebration of theater and the impact that theater has on communities and individuals across the globe – and it’s just now catching on in the U.S. Last year, Chicago launched the first community-wide celebration of World Theatre Day in the United States, and this year, we’re doing it up even more.

Join us at the Chopin on Saturday, March 27. In the evening, experience a special World Theater Day performance of The House’s WILSON WANTS IT ALL or BackStage’s ORANGE FLOWER WATER. Then, beginning at 9:30 as the City’s saturday shows come down, join us for some complimentary food, music, conversation, and performances all provided by the League of Chicago Theatres, the Chopin Theatre, and folks in the Chicago theatre community.

Every space in the Chopin becomes a promenade party, with a little bit of something for everyone to celebrate our corner of the world, and reach out to all the others. Downstairs will feature live music and loungey hob-nobbing with the folks who make Chicago theatre tick. In the lobby, social media connections fuel an international conversation with a host of Chicago’s international friends. And on the mainstage, Chris Piatt, former theatre editor for TimeOut Chicago, brings his PAPER MACHETE live magazine to investigate – and roast – Chicago’s historic relationships with other cities in “The Second City Complex.”

World Theatre Day is all about generating cross-cultural dialogue that explores the power of theater to celebrate life and effect social change through collaborative performance. This year, we want to put you and your theater in the driver’s seat of that discussion, by encouraging you to send a public shout out to an international “sister” company of your choice.

STEP ONE – Make Contact. Find an international theater company or artist – maybe you already know them, or maybe we can hook you up with one – and think about what issues, ideas, and dialogue you would want to share them. Tell them about World Theatre Day and what we’re doing in Chicago.

STEP TWO – Talk it out. Record a video or audio greeting to that sister company, and have them send one to you. Share your thoughts about issues, listen to what your new international friends are working on and trying to accomplish. Find common ground.

STEP THREE – Share. Make a record of your conversation – a video greeting, an audio recording of a skype conversation, a collaborative art project, a photo – and post it to the internationally-contributed World Theatre Day tumblr blog, just by emailing a link to what you’ve made to, or ask us for help at

Follow the international events leading up to World Theatre Day at, and see you at the World Theatre Day party on 3/27!

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The Long Road of the Chicago Theater Database

February 22, 2010 By: Nick Keenan Category: CTDB

Dan Granata and I were interviewed a ways back by Chicago Art Machine about the current status of the Chicago Theater Database, and what makes a fancy community-wide project like that hover in stasis while other projects roll forward.

The interview just went up, and it’s interesting to see how the current evolution of theater resources mirrors other things happening in the rest of the art world.

Moreover, as we’ve worked on this project, we are finding more and more resources out there that do some of what we want to do, or seem to do much of what we want to do but aren’t well-implemented, so we’ve been reassessing what the best way forward is. We certainly believe in the project, and think it adds so much value to the community of theatre artists of which we are members, but we’re also wary of following in the misguided footsteps of so many well-meaning arts advocacy/development organizations who plunge headlong into building something from scratch—trying to be the “end-all, be-all”—without seeing what’s already available or what could be achieved by pooling our resources. In a way, we’re trying not to fall into the same trap we see theatres and theatre artists fall into all the time: wasting energy recreating the wheel when there’s a guy selling spokes down the street.

– Dan Granata

Read the full interview here.

In other news, I’ll be live chatting with the good people at TheatreFace this week about the wonderful world of Sound Design. You can check that out at 2 p.m. EST/11 a.m. PST Wednesday, February 24, in their chat room.

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Busy Chicago Theater Kitchen!

February 09, 2010 By: Nick Keenan Category: Chicago Theater, Community Building

Okay, seriously: there are so many cool projects, parties, and celebrations to encourage Chicago theater to reach out to the world and the nation coming this spring and summer, I can barely contain myself. Here are just two of them that I hope pretty much you and everyone you know in theater can jump on in and participate in.

Chicago and environs: Save the date and spread the word, please:

Saturday, March 27. Chopin Theatre.
9:30 until question marks.

Details coming soon. We need volunteers to help set up the event (sign up here), and stay tuned for yet more ways to participate in this international theatre celebration.

TCG Conference Performances

Second of all, I’m helping (along with the League TCG host committee) put together a series of performances to showcase Chicago theatre at the TCG Conference in June. We just released a call for proposals (see below) for two opportunities – late-night-party performances, and flash performances that pop up unexpectedly throughout the conference.

If your company is unable to attend the conference, this may be one of your only get-in-through-the-stage-door opportunities to get exposure at the conference. You do not need to be a league member theatre to participate, and one of our major goals is to represent the incredible diversity of Chicago theater at the conference through these performances. I hope your theater company can come up with a performance you can share with TCG Conference attendees!

The League of Chicago Theatres is hosting the 2010 TCG Conference in Chicago this June. A diverse selection of theatre companies are sought to represent the breadth and richness of Chicago theatre by creating performances that will be showcased throughout the conference in Flash Performances and at the Late-Night Party. A Flash Performance is a performance that erupts from thin air, engages an audience of 5 to 100, and then quickly disappears. Flash performances will be artfully coordinated to occur in unsuspected places (streets, hallways, el stations) several times a day throughout the conference in order to provide the attendees with a taste of Chicago theatre. A Late-Night Party performance will enhance a party atmosphere, and might include installations, amusements and performances of all kinds. The event itself will be a “carnival” style party featuring light snacks, drinks, music and multi-disciplinary performances- offering conference-goers an opportunity to unwind and let loose after a long day of workshops and networking. The goal is to give the attendees from across the country a sense of the artistry, collaboration and surprise that is Chicago theatre.

The conference will take place June 17-19, 2010. The Late-Night Party will take place on Friday, June 18, 2010. A small panel of theatre artists will select a diverse range of companies to perform. Please submit your proposal and supporting documents for consideration by the panel to Ben Thiem at

Click here for more information and to Download Application.

Deadline for submissions is March 5, 2010

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If Twitter were a theatre pub, it might sound something like this

January 12, 2010 By: Nick Keenan Category: Uncategorized

Two of the most mind-blowing conversations I’ve had this year have both been late at night and joined in by a bunch of twitter pals. They’ve been energizing and challenging – I seem to do better in creative, collaborative brainstorming environments – and at the end of it all, I think I understand the theater ecosystem we’re trying to create much more clearly.

If you don’t like combing through other people’s conversations for bits of inspiration, I’ll be summarizing with handy flowcharts later.

Read the full conversation after the jump


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What is the Question of the Year?

January 02, 2010 By: Nick Keenan Category: In a Perfect World

I got to re-balance my creative input / output ratio in December. And it felt goooooood.

“What is this compassion? Because I don’t really know what it is. So I want to know, really, what is it?”

Aunt Dan and Lemon

“Thinking rationally is the way to be happy and the key to learning more.”

– L. Ron Hubbard, A Very Merry Unauthorized Children’s Scientology Pageant

“Don’t search for the answers, which could not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”

– Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet (h/t Granata)

I don’t think New Year’s resolutions work for me. It’s like preemptively choosing the solution for a problem you haven’t come up against yet.

In past years I always thought, “This year I’ll do more blank and try to be less blank.” But the idea of approaching a theatrical season as a question (instead of say, a theme) or approaching software development from the reiterative question of “what is the way to build what our clients need” has yielded some exciting fruit this year.

And so I wonder: My life seems awfully recursive. A question seems like it might be useful.

The danger is in picking the wrong question. “How can I make my business more profitable?” for instance might lead me pretty far astray, though it is certainly something on my mind. At this point in this year, I’m thinking a lot about stability because it’s been a tumultuous year. My wife and several of our friends all left full time work / half-hearted careers to pursue part time work / full-hearted careers. Watching and helping them develop those full-hearted careers has, I think, been the unasked question for me in 2009. Can you survive that way, ‘living your dream’? And when you do, does it stay your dream? What of that romance can you hang on to, if any, and would you want to? And the answer was: It is possible to be more fulfilled by your work, and the difference between plenty and just getting by is in the strength of your connections to community and friends. Those are the tools that we use to overcome fear and poverty (and one of the reasons why I think it is important for me to stay in theater still).

So the question for this year deals with stability – “How can I be more stable and more sustainable?” The nice thing about a question is that it’s three-dimensional – the shape of the question shifts depending on the time of day or the context in which you consider it. My current, two-dimensional answer to that question is that “stability” for me does not mean for me a prototypical “financial security” – it means a sustainable level of activity that is full-hearted and doesn’t physically kill me or prevent me from enjoying my life or prevent my wife and friends and family from enjoying theirs. Balancing work, play, and family takes work and consideration – I wouldn’t want to ask that question frivolously.

Stability for me is linked to that question of compassion from Aunt Dan. As a designer (both web and sound), or really as a person who provides services to clients, I require compassion to do my job/life effectively, since I essentially act as an artistic and technical advisor to another storyteller. I hear what a storyteller (a director or an organization) is trying to communicate or accomplish with their story, and I create the tools or atmosphere in which that communication is possible. I require compassion and empathy to be able to translate the director’s complex vocabulary and emotional understanding of their story into my own emotional understanding of the story, and in the case of web design, incorporate the reactions and responses of many, many users into a final, finished and ideally universal understanding of a complex narrative. That question, quoted above, is the core of what I didn’t connect to with that script (which I should add was excellently produced and presented by my pals at BackStage Theatre – all artists I deeply respect.) Without compassion, I don’t operate, and my designs don’t resonate with other people, and I don’t get hired again – which of course, always may happen. Compassion for me is a sense of empathy, an often misguided but for me visceral and tangible sense that I understand the motives and worldview of another human being. I couldn’t operate if I didn’t feel some level of compassion for and from my collaborators, or an audience, or the users of my websites.

But compassion also quickly throws me out of balance and creates a vast amount of instability in my life. (I can hear the Objectivists in the room chuckling, and I’ll get to you later.) The art itself is always a solitary and personal reaction to that compassion, which comes from something internal to me, hopefully not an external, societal, or conventional response to a given design challenge (“It’s night! We need to hear crickets!”) Compassion muddies that personal relationship I have with my work, and left unchecked can muddy and complicate the quality of that work. Compassion with my clients compels me to take on too much work to fill my clients and my collaborators needs before my own. Finding the right valve that gets me to shut off the sense of compassion in favor of the sense of taking care of myself at just the right moment has always been a challenge for me. In many ways and on many days, my sense of compassion is least developed with this guy, Nick Keenan.

Changing and developing our lives and the people that we are and the Things that We Do With Our Time On This Planet is not a question of carving or molding ourselves out of clay. We’re given certain talents and certain flaws, and I believe very strongly that those talents and flaws are closely linked together – amazingly, fascinatingly so. Applying dogma to our lives that we developed before New Years past (about so-and-so pounds lost or whatee-hoo books read or blah-tee-blah engrams we need to audit before we achieve Clear) can unintentionally damage our honest experience of February, April, June, and September.

I wonder if the question will stick better than the resolution. The question is a iterative procedure that is scalable, a kind of Kaizen ritual that provides structure and allows for individual variation and diversity, person-to-person and day-to-day. Life is shaped like a question, not an answer.

Living that question is audacious humility, and I could use somma that.

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